Monday, December 08, 2008

Was There a Dark Cloud Looming Over Miami? Or Was it All in Our Minds?

Was There a Dark Cloud Looming Over Miami? Or Was it All in Our Minds?

Gallerists, collectors, and art appreciators were fully aware of the dark cloud-- psychologically speaking-- looming over Miami during the recent art fairs. The ‘rain’ fell on Scope, Pulse, Bridge and other art fairs-- they fell on Art Basel Miami Beach as well. It was a psychological rain and with it came great concern and fear surrounding the stability of the current art market. The streets and busses were filled with rumors and dark predictions-- this collective voice of dissatisfaction blared throughout the length of the Miami fairs.

The ‘rain’ fell early on. Individuals fueled by optimism turned utterly pessimistic as the doubts of gallerists and their assistants became overly visible-- you could see the concern in their faces… in their eyes. While roaming the fairs I experienced several instances of gallery assistants looking at my collection of press passes as if I were some form of hope in an otherwise dismal situation. In their eyes I could see open questions, such as-- “Who does he write for?”, “Will he stop here?”, “Was this trip worth the cost?”. There was a foreboding sense of despair-- even at Art Basel Miami Beach. I don’t think any dealer or assistant was exempt from the realization of the cold market the art market has found itself in due to the struggles of the economy as a whole.

As the days went on it seemed that gallerists and their assistants were more focused on their next smoke break or social outing than the possibility of selling art. In fact, some seemed to have a great deal of struggle herding their help back to stable, so to speak. The question I found myself asking was-- “is it really that bad or has the aura of pessimism got the better of some individuals?”. Ironically, I did chance into a few conversations with buyers who were annoyed that upon finding a piece of interest there was no assistant/dealer on hand to negotiate with. One buyer confused my status and thought that I was an exhibitor--- upon telling her that my pass was a press pass she stormed away saying aloud, “How do they expect to sell if there is no one here to do it”. I smiled and continued on.

Based on my observations I would not say that Miami was a complete disappointment, but it could have certainly been a better experience for all involved. Each fair had similar problems--- marred by lack of traffic and studded by lackluster examples of poor work-- when compared to previous efforts. There was certainly a negative sense of energy taunting overhead. As you can tell my imagination rescued me from some of the boredom and helped me to fend off some of the drama.

Honestly, I felt as if I had walked into a collective performance piece exploring the failure of the current art market. My guess is that many had wished they were just a player in such a spectacle. However, the hard grasp of reality was ever present-- it could be heard in the words upon the street and seen in the eyes of those trying to push their wares. Miami was not a journey into the surreal-- it was a map of the situation the current art market is facing as a whole. Bitter truth for bitter times. When the final days came to a close it was all for the better.

So was there a dark cloud looming over Miami? Not really. It was simply a case of high hopes being drowned by hard facts. They say to always expect the unexpected--- that said, sometimes we must accept the expected for what it is. There will be brighter days ahead.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a bunch of spoiled brats, showing inferior work and slacking on the job. If the gallerists couldn't be bothered to be present, they fully deserved to lose sales.

Anonymous said...

Some work sold. Work by mid career artists and a few greats did well at Basel. I don't think buyers are willing to pay thousands for emerging art like they were in years past. All this shows is that a lot of younger artists had their prices inflated. I think you are right in suggesting that people need to put their expectations in check.

Anonymous said...

Art is undergoing a ReFormation. Just as Martin Luther put up his list of demands, about the decadence of the Roman Catholic Church, so today at the end of our Age of Excess, we will return to the fundamentals, the basics of art, and every other field of human endeavor.

Art must get back to its foundations. Man, Nature, God. All else is vanity. Now, there is no ballance, not layering of emotions, meaning, vitality. One thing at a time is dealt with in our over specialized epoch, so as not to actually deal with reality. Using whatever new fangled gadgets that come to hand, art itself is forgotten.

The market will finaly demand quality. Truth. Beauty in all its forms, many of which are far from pleasing to the eye, at least initialy, but if they bear truth, they shine in an energy that gives us that tiny glimpse, that feel, that emotion of more, etenrity, god, life, and mans purpose

Line will return, drawing, color, in paint, structure, in woven and layered form. The market will at long last DEMAND art, and so it will return.

Even Obama, in his Meet the Press inteview, stressed art. True art, that would come to the White House. Jazz, Classical, and Poetry, no mention of visual arts, as they have failed of late. When substance returns, so will the market.

As I predicted, Obama is solidly centerist, thank God. Truth and reality will lead the way, not ideology of left or right. This depression will alst a good two years, all of 2009 will be horrible, we are still at the beginning. After Obamas programs take effect, if they work, we can say we are at the beginning of the end, but we are nowhere close.

We must reprioritize, volunteer, help one another, and become good citizens once more, instead of selfish individuals. This will take some time, when it does, things will begin to glow again, and grow, and feel vital, something that has not happened in decades.

The wheat will be separated from the chaff, and of that we have mountains. The breeze you felt in Miami, was this, blowing it away. The Emperor will be revealed in his gross nakedness, the art market will crumble, to be born again. Reformed. Art wil return, but there is much work to be done, Lets get to it.

Art collegia delenda est

BekkaPoo said...

It'd be nice if Art Basel would feature more emerging artists, and especially more local artists from Florida. There are three art focused schools in the area that I know of, so you can't tell me there is a lack of new talent in the Miami area.

Anonymous said...

That is the problem with the art world. No one wants to take a chance on emerging artists when times are tough but when times are great they snark these youths into charging prices that mid career artists deserve. I know that dealers want to make top dollar but there is a lot of money to be made in offering affordable work. Paying for some punks tuition debt is not affordable in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Just read the top comment. Good gallery help is hard to find Barbara. Everyone knows that the pretty gallerinas are often nothing more than eye candy. Want to sell art? Just put a pretty woman next to it. So much of the art world is just a big show for the eyes. I think this bust might force people back to the basics.

Anonymous said...

you know, it would be nice if artistes on these sites actualy thought about waht art is, how to get better, waht is important, than only being interested in how to make a career at it. Whic is buffonery mostly these days. There are good artists out therelike teh guy below, but they are extremely rare. Look to learn more about art, how many of you actually know the difference between a Morondi and a Modigliani? a Cezanne and a Chardin? Not many, and so art is soft and weak.

the art market is no soft becaue the art is. It was entertainment before, that fund has been cut. Art only now. That which explore Man, Nature and God. the only things that last and matte,r not the trivial individual, whose time on earth is short, but desires large.

Mark Staff Brandl said...

Great post Brian. Balanced, but clear-sighted. I posted a link to it on You know what I think about the current artworld, so I was not surprised.

Balhatain said...

Thanks Mark. :)